Hit by lockdowns, bookstore owners hope their pain will end soon

Business City COVID-19

Say sales are not anywhere near pre-Covid level

Bookstores in Bengaluru have faced huge losses in the past two years due to lockdowns and people’s shift to eBooks. Although conditions are improving, sales  have not returned to the pre-pandemic level.

Prakash Gangaram, the owner of Gangaram Book Bureau, near Ashok Nagar, informed The Observer: “In 2020, we were closed for two months. This year as well, we had to close the store for two months. We faced a heavy loss during that time…. All the store expenses, like electricity bills, were there but the sales were nil. We are hoping there will not be a third wave.”

During the lockdowns, customers largely shifted to ebooks or ordered books online. “There are traffic and parking problem in Bengaluru. That is why even after the lockdown has been lifted, people are preferring to buy books online. It is much more convenient for them. Yes, sales have somewhat improved. But they are still far from the level… two years ago. To cope, we are planning to cut down on our expenses, maybe even shrink the bookstore,” Gangaram added.

Sindhu Ayyappa, an avid reader, said: “Even though I prefer going to bookstores and browsing books, I cannot deny that it is much more convenient to buy online. I started getting books online during the lockdown. The cost is usually cheaper as well.”

During the lockdowns, many bookstores  started home deliveries through Dunzo. But it was not  profitable either.

“People are still choosing to order through the delivery service Dunzo,” Krishna Gowda, the owner of Bookworm on Church Street, said: “When people come to the bookstore to buy one book, they usually see other books they like and end up buying more. But if they are buying through Dunzo then they just buy one book.”

Gowda faced a heavy loss during the lockdowns as he had to pay rent but had no sales.

Keshava R, the owner of The Bookhive, commented: “For the past two or three months, we have started getting customers again, but it will be a long time till we are back to the full capacity….”

Another reason for the decrease in book sales is a rise in the popularity of ebooks. Almost all popular books are available in .pdf and .epub formats.

Charemathi, a college student, said: “I read a lot of books. But buying physical books is usually very expensive, especially for someone like me who reads multiple books in a month. As a student, I prefer ebooks because they are much more pocket-friendly.”

Many  students   did not buy their course books during the lockdowns as they had online classes.

Devika Gowda, a college student, shared: “Most of our course books were made available in .pdf forms by our professors. So I did not buy  textbooks for the previous two semesters.”

Prerana Singh, another college student, said: “My sister is in school and has been buying all her books online recently.… As a person who likes to buy books after browsing them, I feel lost and disconnected buying books online, but it is the only convenient way.”

With zero counter sales for almost three or four months, many bookstores closed down during the lockdown. The ones that survived are still trying to recover from their massive loss.

Reports say that these businesses have taken preventive measures like engaging with customers through social media and using delivery services. With Covid-19 cases decreasing by the day, bookstore owners are hoping for a better situation soon.



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